Creating, planning, organizing, marketing, developing, and hosting your own race takes a lot of time, work, and money – but it can be done – provided you have the resources and are ready for a huge challenge.

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Take some time to review the info below, and understand this is just a brief overview of what actually goes into putting on a successful race – from a running 5k to a full-blown obstacle race. If you still want to learn more, contact us about event consulting.

Create Your Own Event

Let's say you really, really, really want to create an event of your own –  it will be extremely challenging but can possibly be incredibly rewarding. Here's some of the things you'll need to be willing to work through or consider:

  • SAFETY – First and foremost – safety. Before you even think of a cool name, logo or start searching for a website… you need to consider the safety of every single runner, volunteer, spectator and photographer on the course. Every single person that shows up on the property at any event is your responsibility. Injuries will happen, so you need to be aware and prepared with personnel: an emergency action escalation plan (and the know-how to put it into action when needed), EMTs and ambulances on-site, effective radio communication with safety officers throughout the course. Of course, the entire venue needs to be safe as well, this includes the course for participants and every natural feature as well as man-made ones you place in their way, but also the paths in & out for spectators, parking, etc. Tents, tables, flags, banners, chairs… they all become projectiles instantly in a gust of wind. Every element needs to be thought out for safety.
  • Venue – You need to find the perfect venue for the race. You hopefully will be dealing with crowds, and traffic flow should be a major concern – not only on the course but for the registration, packet pick-up, the start & finish line and spectator areas. Every minute racers, volunteers or spectators spend waiting in a line their ire will build up… and they'll let you – and thousands of others – know on social media.
  • Parking – Does the venue have enough parking? If not, is there parking nearby? Having to bus people over from remote lots can cause headaches even if done well – if it's handled poorly, folks will be miserable.
  • Insurance – Obviously, this is required. Venues won't even consider your proposal to hold an event without at least a $1-3 million dollar policy for the day of race.
  • Obstacle Ideas – You do have some original (safe) ideas for obstacles, right? (Brett – Here's a simple rule of thumb; for every foot you get people up in the air, the probability and severity of injury increases exponentially. The higher you go the injuries grow from trips & falls > sprained ankles > broken bones > far worse injuries.)
  • Construction – Who is building your obstacles? Are they an engineer or carpenter who understands load balancing and the physics of thousands of pounds of potential swinging force with multiple athletes on an obstacle at once? Sure, even walls seem easy, but I've seen those fail multiple times… can your build team handle obstacles that simple, much less the more complicated “cool” ones you are envisioning?
    • This is the place a thousand other races have failed by dreaming big and coming up WAY short in construction of adequate obstacles. Something as simple and commonplace as an A-Frame Cargo Net Climb is impossible to construct safely and correctly with a few people and a couple ladders. Anything over 10′ tall and 200# requires a mechanical lift, and the knowledge that this “small” obstacle is big enough to crush a worker, volunteer, or athlete.
    • How early can you set up obstacles in place at your venue? OCRs are not a “one day setup” race – if you're looking for that, put on a 5k trail run, and even that will take at least a full day to prep the course and festival area. A quick set-up with a seasoned, organized build team for an OCR is at least 5 days, and that's with many of the obstacles already built in a staging area, tested, marked, disassembled, and moved to their race location.
    • There is an enormous difference between designing a course – or even an obstacle – and actually building it safely. Even if you think you understand this but have not ever built several safe obstacles for use by hundreds of people an hour, you have no clue. Now, imagine putting 10 or more of these time-consuming obstacles around a course.
  • Timing – Will your race be chip timed? Plan on at least $5 per participant if it is, and you'll be contracting with an outside company – yet another piece for your RD to manage on race day.
  • Giveaways/Swag – What will participants get? Just a t-shirt & medal? Or can you wrangle some sponsors for other stuff in their goodie bags?
  • Organization – Do you have a seasoned race director and staff that can handle all the big & small details of running an event? You'd better!
    • Don't be confused between a race director and an announcer – the latter is the voice everyone hears while the RD's voice should only be into the walkie-talkie to the crew and safety personnel on race day.
    • While every event structure is different, roles such as:
      • Race Owner: Budget, venue, insurance, permits, registration, consumables, etc.
      • Course Designer/Builder:  Develop course and obstacles months in advance for testing, oversee the venue & crew during construction and testing, monitor obstacles for safety/any defects during race day.
      • Race Director (RD): Oversee all aspects of the event itself on race day – from the toilet paper in the port-o-johns to the depth of the water in a mud pit. Every volunteer, staff member, spectator, and athlete are the responsibility of the race director on race day – as well as overseeing the race course itself.
      • Volunteer Director: Getting volunteers can be difficult, managing volunteers can be exponentially more difficult. I have personally seen as many as 100 volunteers NOT SHOW UP on race day, and witnessed volunteers get bored, hungry, or just feel like walking away from their posts and go home. This absolutely happens at every event, volunteers are an integral part of keeping your event safe and competition fair. Even if they do show up, are eager, and stay at their post, they still need to be trained and shown how to execute their obstacle safely, know what to do in case of any emergency, and also know simple facts like how far the athletes are on the course, when the next aid station is, what time it is, etc.
      • Safety Director (SD): The SD is the point of communication between RD, staff, EMTs, and Police. First responders are trained to act independently when there is an emergency, and the SD is essential to the communication for all situations that happen during race day. Should an obstacle be closed or race rerouted while there is an emergency, the EMTs are busy with the injured individual(s) and the safety director needs to make sure the RD knows to alert the course staff ASAP.
  • Post-Party – Do you need food & beverage permits? DJ? Stage? Showers for athletes to clean off?

As you can see, there's a ton that goes into it, and we're barely scratching the surface. It will require dedication, hard work, a sizable budget, probably some tears, and even more dedication. Of course, if all goes off as planned, it will all be worth it. Putting on an event of your own WILL NOT HAPPEN on a shoestring budget, and you absolutely cannot count on “making enough on pre-registrations to buy the stuff you need” – it does not work that way and you're setting your event up for failure (and possible litigation).

As a racer, I only get to experience the adrenaline rush of crossing the finish line only once per event. As a race director, I get to bask in the joy of competition and the endorphin highs of every single racer crossing the finish line.

– Brett Stewart (Race Director & Author of Ultimate Obstacle Race Training)

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Don't Worry, There's Help Available

If this seems like a lot of work, responsibility, risk, and expense, it is.

While you can do all this your own, bringing in a seasoned event director as a consultant might seem like a very good idea. In that case, you're in luck! Our own Brett Stewart (author of Ultimate Obstacle Race Training) is an experienced event owner and race director who has consulted on events in all aspects including location scouting, logo & website set-up, developing obstacles & challenges, course set-up & testing, and race-day event direction.

Located in Phoenix, AZ, Brett's team at ADV.FIT (TRI PHX LLC) can take your event from A to Z with consultation starting at $250/hr to help you brainstorm or plan any aspect of your event all the way up to a turn-key solution where our crew rolls up to your location, sets up the entire OCR  course and manages the event on race day starting under $20,000.

ADV.FIT also produces 5ks to marathons, trail runs, school fitness/adventure events, and more.